From the darkness Nikki Montague heard the dog’s growl before she saw it. The fine hairs on the nape of her neck stiffened. Trapped kneeling against the wall she knew that in an instant the gaping jaws of the Rottweiler could close around her throat. Bared rows of jagged teeth snarling in a fury of fur and saliva.
She sensed its hunger in the heat of its breath, the rancid smell in her nostrils. She could only imagine the jarring collision and then the pain if it sprang, each tooth ripping her throat, the hard jaws squeezing the air from her windpipe. She felt her lungs might explode with the fear of it. Her fingers were bunched like claws, ready to rake the animal’s chest and she could see the male dog’s hard muscles straining under its silken fur.
The evening had been a good one, drinking at the bar on the beach. The laughter from the groups of holidaymakers at nearby tables. The chill in the air as the day departed and finally, the beauty of the dying Mediterranean sun across the aquamarine sea. Now she faced dying, too. The power in her legs, tuned from years as a dancer, had failed her and she and the dog were frozen in their private struggle.
The shock made it unreal, except for the snorts of warm air on her cheeks as the animal breathed through its wet, black, nostrils. Then the dog’s fierce, brown eyes intervened and she had to look away. Gripped by its threat like a doll in a vice she stared into the harsh, white glare of the car headlights behind it.
Ibrahim Tolman, the driver of the Mercedes limousine, slid from his seat and pressed the release button on the dog trainer’s transmitter. He commanded.
“Good dog, Diablo! Now go! Hvala!”
The animal, released from the pain of its radio collar, immediately obeyed. It slunk away into the shadow of the high, dry-stone wall that enclosed the courtyard. Tolman moved into the white pool of light cast by the headlights and knelt beside the sprawled girl, checking for a pulse, but knew it was unnecessary. She had only fainted under the Rottweiler’s threat.
He flicked on the villa lights, illuminating the mosaic tiled terrace. The pool lights sent a shimmy of ripples across its surface lapping at the blue, ceramic edging before trickling over into a Tosca stone waterfall below. Ibrahim Tolman looked at his Rolex and addressed the prostrate girl at his feet.
“It’s midnight, Nikki. Did you think you fooled me with your beautiful eyes? Whilst I’m gone, if you try to escape again, I will tell Marko the dog can have you!”
With a shrug he brushed a mosquito from the sleeve of his Italian silk suit and turned to the villa.
“Marko! Carlos! Bastardan. Where the hell are you? What do you think I pay you for. The dog has gone. Get out here and take the girl back inside before I set the animal on both of you!”